Nebraska’s 2019 dove season opened this week. On my first hunt, I did not see many birds and I was a bit worried. I have heard from other hunters and they have noted the same thing.
A couple of ranchers I know have observed that there seems to be fewer doves in the Sandhills. They both theorize that the last cool spell we had, with overnight temperatures in the 60s, may have triggered their southern migration.
Another theory is that some of the recent hail storms severely impacted the dove population. That kind of hail could also deal a blow to quail, pheasant, prairie chicken and grouse numbers, too.
I got in another dove hunt a couple of days ago. I hunted a spot I was introduced to some years ago northeast in Dawson County. In past years it has provided some of the best dove hunting I’ve ever seen. The area is bordered by corn, wheat stubble and alfalfa.
This place has everything a dove could want: An abundance of seed producing weeds, roost trees, loafing trees and water. During the last few hours of daylight, the doves come in groups of dozens, sometimes hundreds at a time.
That was not the case this year. We still had doves coming in, but not nearly in the numbers we have seen before. It was still a fun hunt and everyone got in some shooting, just not as much as we have had before.
My hunting partners for this trip were Larry Golden and Scott Heinzen of North Platte, along with Rodney and Roger Aden, of Gothenburg. We arrived at our hunting spot about 4 p.m. A dozen or so doves took flight as we arrived. We spread out to our usual spots.
I believe in using decoys for doves, but I was going light on this hunt. I set out a few static decoys near where I sat, but that was it. To give the doves flying by the best opportunity to see my decoys, I erected a set of poles with a wire pulled taut between them. The wire was about eight feet off the ground. I clipped three decoys on the wire and three more about 50 feet away on a section of fence rail.
I had not finished setting out my decoys when I heard a shot from where Heinzen was sitting. A trio of doves had come in about five feet above the corn and circled to land. Heinzen’s first shot was a bit behind his target but the second shot connected. The first dove of the hunt was down.
A pair of doves headed up the eastern side of the area and over Golden. I heard his double barrel fire and another dove spiraled out of the air. The now lone bird flared and turned west. It flew right toward me. I missed the shot in grade fashion.
I was using an American classic for this hunt: A Winchester Model 12 pump gun I picked up a while back that was chambered in 20 gauge. Thousands of Model 12s were made in 12 gauge, but 20 gauges are relatively rare. I went 0 for 4 before I figured out how to fit the gun to me properly.
Another shot came from where the Aden brothers were sitting. I saw a dove flutter out of the air. Heinzen connected on another shot. A single dove circled in from my right and dropped toward my decoys. I added it to hunt tally.
The rest of the afternoon followed a pattern of a couple shots and then waiting around for the next bird to come in. In all, we harvested 22 doves in about two hours of hunting, a mix of Eurasian-collared doves and mourning doves. It may not have rivalled some of out hunts from the past but it was good enough for us. The best part of the day was having fun and getting to hunt again with friends.
“It may not have been the best dove hunt we’ve had,” said Heinzen. “But it was still fun and a lot better than sitting at home.”
Dove season ends Oct. 30. I would be interested to hearing what the dove numbers look like where you are hunting. Good luck to everyone who will be hunting doves this season.
Brule Gun Show
Remember, the Brule Gun Show is this weekend. Saturday is already in the history books, but you still have time to get over to the show today and see if there is anything you need to bring home.
Doors open at 9 a.m. today at the Brule Activity Center, at the corner of Eighth and Oak streets. The show will wrap up about 3 p.m. Remember, this is all Mountain time. Admission is $4 per person. Lunch and refreshments are available on the premises, so there is no need to go hungry.